Bathroom Project 2012 - Full Story

How on earth can a bathroom re-fit take 7 months!?  Well, doing things you've never done (i.e. plumbing!), keeping a working bathroom at all times and only spending about 1.5 days per week on the job certainly doesn't help...  Here's how it went.

The main trigger for the project was that Claire wanted a shower.  The fact that the bathroom was looking very tired was a further kick up the backside to do something.  Basically, apart from decorating, it was unchanged for 21 years and had been on the to-do list for a while.  In fact, in preparation, I picked up this great book from a charity shop in Chudleigh a couple of years ago, a book that I found really, really helpful!

Plumbing book

Fitting a shower had always been an issue as (a) we have low water pressure and (b) we only had a 25 gallon tank feeding the hot water.  When the old tank split in 2011, I wanted a 50 gallon tank in the loft ready for the shower but the plumber would only install one over a supporting wall and I didn't want it there.  So, my first job was to install a second tank (18 gallon) that would be used for the cold feed for the bath and shower.  A pump would be used to get good pressure and that would be fairly easy as the hot water tank was fitted with a Surrey flange when the central heating was updated in 2010.  The new tank was located above the bathroom and accessing that section of loft was interesting to say the least!

Getting in
Getting out
Squeezing in...
My 2nd home for a month!
Good job I'm not Fat Mark anymore :-)

But I'm getting ahead of myself!  The first problem was agreeing on things.  Claire fancied a sink over a vanity unit from Ikea but I hate going to Wednesbury so we waited until we went to Cardiff for a weekend in March as there was a branch a short drive from the B&B we stayed in.  But when we got there at just after 10am on a Sunday, we found it didn't open until 11am!  Ah well, at least I got a 104 degree offest pan connector from Clas Ohlson during the trip!

I then discovered that Ikea had discontinued the item so there was a lot of searching around for an alternative.  I found that vanity units were generally expensive but came across a discontinued range of tongue and groove furniture from B&Q (20% off!) that included one.  But when it came to finding stock, only three of the four bits we wanted were available at Halesowen and the other meant a trip to - you've guessed it - Wednesbury, right next to Ikea!  This was all in April so it went into storage at Claire's dad's, as did the sink we ordered from

Another bargain was picked up from a vintage rally at Hanbury early in the year.  An almost new pair of pipe benders for £10!  They came in very handy and I was so proud of my first, bent pipe that I took a picture.

Pipe benders
First bend
£10, wot a bargain!
Ah, my first bend...

It was June 6th that we actually started work with Claire stripping the walls and me cutting a hole for the extractor fan.  It was then a long and slow process of installing the tank and all the plumbing to and from the pump in the airing cupboard (which had to be, er, modified by cutting a big hole in the side!).  The pipes under the floor also took some work.

Airing cupboard
Tank and extractor
Pipework for bath
Airing cupboard
New tank and extractor fan
New pipes for bath and shower

So, it was July 20th before I was ready to remove the old bath and take delivery of a new one from Liberty Bathrooms.  I'd always thought the old bath was cast iron so would be easy to smash with a lump hammer but it turned out to be steel.  An electric saw I had in the loft did a grand job of cutting it in two and the scrapman took it away the next day.

Bath in half
Plumbing for bath and shower
It's easy with the right tools!
New pipes for bath and shower

My friend, Malcolm, helped me out for a couple of days and we got the new waste pipe in and the stud wall all ready for the later fitting of the shower.  Things were a bit fraught and I had to take an extra day off work to finish off the installation.  Getting the bath level and securely fitted took a fair bit of extra work as the supplied legs were quite flimsy.  Then I had created myself even more work by deciding that I wanted to construct my own L-shaped bath panel from three Wickes T&G items, but it looked really nice, especially with blue LED decking lights mounted so they came on with the extractor fan!

Bath in place
Bath with lights
L-Shaped bath with wobbly legs
Ah, now that looks better!

Now it was August Bank Holiday week and a couple of wet days were used fitting the new toilet and sink.  After day one, we had to flush the loo with a bucket but normal operation was resumed on day two.  Things were starting to look how I had planned and the pile of boxes of items to be installed was getting smaller.  But there was still a way to go...

Loo and sink before
Plumbing done
Loo and sink after
Old sink and loo
Old stuff out and plumbing done
New sink and loo

It would be another month before I'd completed all the tiling around the shower, fitted the shower valve and rail, sealed the bath and fitted the shower screen.  On 26th September, Claire took her first shower and it got the thumbs up - phew!

Shower ready

Tiling was another issue.  Ideally, you would rip out your sink and loo, re-tile and then fit the new ones.  But having to keep a working bathroom at all times made this impossible.  This resulted in lots of fiddly tiles needing to be cut which, inevitably, slowed things down a lot.  A bargain electric tile cutter from Aldi (£19.99!!) came in very handy, though.

Dodgy tile
Cut to go round the toilet cistern!

A new light fitting took a while to decide upon but we ended up with one that matched the room nicely and only cost £10 from B&Q so that was a result.

When it came to decorating, we'd decided the colours and bought the paint right at the start of the project.  But I, once again, wanted to create more work by fitting tongue and groove (have you spotted a theme here?) panels around the lower half of the wall.  I did make things easier by using Easipanels which I highly recommend.  Oh, and to finish it off, instead of expensive, oversized and stupidly short Easipanel dado rail, I used staff beading which looks just great and is much cheaper!

Yet another job was replacing the ugly, flat door to the airing cupboard and the bull nose architrave around it.  A four panel door from B&Q fitted with an Olde Rim Lock from Screwfix and Ogee architrave from Wickes looks so much better but, of course, took time to do.

Old airing cupboard door
New door
Old airing cupboard
New door.  Note light fitting too

Finally, some more help!  Claire and her dad wallpapered above the panels.  A couple of weeks later Claire put the first coat of paint on.  Now, we knew what we wanted but the choice of kitchen and bathroom colours is very poor.  Homebase had the closest in their Jazzberry colour but it was always going to be too dark.  We took some out and stirred in some white but it still came out too dark.  Quite a bit more white was added and the second coat came out just how we wanted!

Vinyl flooring had also been something we found difficult to agree on.  We'd looked through the books at Carpet Right, United Carpets and Kidderminster Carpets to no avail.  Only when we went to a local store in Bromsgrove did we find Lifestyle Smoked Oak.  We both agreed it was just what we wanted.  By this point, I was glad to actually pay someone to fit it as I'd had enough and I knew he'd do a better job than me!  It was fitted on Dec 10th.

Door and floor
Sink and floor
Bath and floor

After that, it was just finishing touches.  One thing I must say is do shop around for accessories.  BathStore charge some really silly prices (er, toilet roll holders for £39!?!?!?) but we got ours from Wilkinsons.  Perfect ceramic and chrome lightpulls were just two pounds each :-)

Loo roll holder
Sink and taps
Loo roll holder
Sink, taps and tiles

So, before I knew it, 7 months of my life had disappeared to the biggest DIY job I have ever done (yes, bigger than the kitchen IMHO).  But we had the bathroom we both wanted and something I feel really proud to say, "I did [most of...] that".